Quick Dill Pickle Spears or Slices

pickles

A healthy cucumber plant is a prolific producer. You know you can’t eat all of them, right? That means you need to do one of two things. Either sneak over to your neighbors and leave bags of cukes on their porch and run away or pickle them. Sure, there are breeds of cucumbers specifically for pickling, but all cucumbers can be preserved in jars. This just happens to be our down and dirty way of making a quick two quarts of dill pickles. Feel free to scale this recipe as you need for larger quantities.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3# Cucumbers
  • 6 cloves of garlic(minced)
  • 4 tsp dill ceed
  • 1 red pepper flakes
  • 2c cider vinegar
  • 2c water
  • 3 Tbsp pickling salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Start by making sure you have two cleaned and sanitized quart jars.
  2. Wash, dry, and cut cucumbers into spears or slices.
  3. Add 1/2 of the garlic, dill, and pepper flakes into each jar.
  4. Pack cucumbers into jar.(With spears you might want to tip jar and switch between thick and thin ended spears at the bottom of jar)
  5. In a pot mix together the vinegar, water, and salt. This is your brine.
  6. Bring your brine to a boil and pour into jars up to 1/2 inch from the top.
  7. Remove excess bubbles by gentle tapping the jar on the counter.
  8. Place lid and band onto the jar and boil in a canner for 10 minutes.

As the jar cools it will seal. If not, something when wrong. You don’t have to have a pressure canner for this, just a deep stock pot that will allow water to come up over the lid is necessary.

 

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Glazed Lemon Zucchini Bread

Lemon Zucchini Bread

A favorite of late summer in our house is this lemony treat. It’s lighter and fluffier than the traditional zucchini breads we usually bake and the lemon gives it a citrus freshness complimented by the sweetness that pervades the bread and glazing. This is a perfect snack bread to enjoy with a cup of coffee and a friendly conversation.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups white flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs(beaten)
  • 1/2c oil
  • 1 1/3c sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2c buttermilk
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 1c grated zucchini

DIRECTION:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Mix dry ingredients (flour, salt, and baking powder) and set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl put your eggs, oil, and sugar together. Mix well.
  4. Add the lemon juice, buttermilk, and lemon zest to the liquid  blow and blend evenly.
  5. Combine the wet and dry together and mix well.
  6. Add the zucchini to the mixture, folding until it’s thoroughly mixed.
  7. Split the batter between the two plans evenly and back for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean at the center.

The Glaze:

The glaze is a simple powdered sugar glazing with lemon added.

  • 1c powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp milk

Mix the ingredients and drizzle over your COOLED lemon zucchini bread. You may want to use the back side of a rubber scraper or spoon to spread the glaze more evenly over the top of the bread.

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Gardening Tip: Save Some Peas for Later

fresh

As gardeners, we are strong believers in the need to leave a portion of the crop in the garden so it can go to seed for next year. GASP! In a world of GMO contracts for seed the home gardener has no problem harvesting seeds from their organic and heirloom variety veggies without the seed police knocking on your door.[locks door]

Snap peas and sugar snap peas have a pretty good life arc to follow if you plan to keep for next year. You can harvest them throughout the middle summer here in the north(Minnesota) and, come the dog days of August, the pea pods change in thickness and color to let you know they are ready for seed harvesting.

fresh

Ripe and ready snap peas have a good even color to them. Sugar snap peas tend to be rounder but as the season rolls on you’ll find they might been smaller and thinner as the plant reaches the end of it’s life cycle. They still taste good and have that juicy crispness to the pod when you bite into it.

old

Over ripe pea pods will develop a varied color scheme and get thinner as the moisture content of the pod dissipates. Some of them might still be edible but once you get to the brown little buggers at the bottom of the above picture, they are definitely ready for seed harvesting.

In the two dimensional world of your video screen it is hard to compare the two images so we also took a picture of the progression from ripe, to over-ripe, to leathery seed pouch.

comparison

The one on the left has smaller peas and a thick pod surrounding it to hold it’s sweet juicy goodness. The middle one, while still edible, has lost a lot of moisture in the pod itself and the peas are bigger. The one on the right is an ideal target for next years seeds.

Despite the fact that a lot of the moisture is gone by the time you harvest the old ones, you will find that they need extra time to dry before you seal them up in a dry bag for next year. We just leave them on the counter on a paper towel for a couple weeks but you can figure out what works for you.

As much as we love to eat fresh sugar snap peas out of the garden, keeping a bunch around for next year will only “sweeten” your investment of time and energy even more.

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Chickens vs Predators? Chickens Always Lose

Freckle&Elvis

We’ve raised chickens for eggs for 13 years now and have seen more than our fair share of death in the coop. Sometimes they go quietly and quickly and sometimes you can look at a bird and know they will be gone in three days based on their symptoms. It’s just how nature works.

Last night we got a call from a friend, who was watching our chickens while we attended a family reunion, because he suspected some fowl play had happened to our two free range yard birds. Normally, these birds ,Elvis and Freckle, ran up to humans in the hope of getting fed so when they did not come racing across the yard he knew that was a red flag. When he saw a few white feathers on the ground along the back side of the chicken shed he decided it was time to call me.

Sure enough, after returning a little bit ago, I tracked a trail of trodden tall grass to a set of pine along our property line only to find the remains of both of them. The only thing to do now is make sure whatever decided to take these two doesn’t decided to take the rest of the birds or, worse yet, they three cats we have living with us that have full access to the outside.

For the record, Elvis was a rare commodity. He was a rooster that never developed any alpha tendencies and always maintained a healthy fear of me. He won a 1st place blue ribbon at the 2012 Benton County Fair. Freckle, on the other hand, was a wily feral hatched bird that lived free from beginning to end, never having actual physical contact with humans. They were a twosome flock that stayed together through several seasons and they went down together. That’s where their story ends.

Elvis gets his Blue RibbonNote: That is the one and only time Elvis was ever in a cage. He didn’t like it AT ALL.

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Our Tiny Home Experiment – Chapter 2: Dealing With One Of Life’s Constants

change

If there is one thing you learn to accept, or blithely ignore, is that CHANGE will happen whether you want it or not. The timeline for building our tiny home has moved time and again. First, we were going to build it early in the spring so that we would have a place to stay when we remodeled our normal sized house during the summer. As of right now, we are over half way through July and so far we’ve got nothing built. Fear not though, a few of the things that have held us up, or changed the plans, may be good in the end.

First off, at about the same time as we reported Chapter 1 of our journey a friend told us of an open casting call for a TV show that  was looking for a family with children who might be interested in living in a tiny home. I didn’t think it would go anywhere but I followed up on a link to their site and submitted our basic information. The whole thing seemed like one of those moments when you send your resume off for a job and never get a response in return. That is what I was expecting, but the very next day we received a call from that casting company. We spoke briefly about why we were interested in tiny home living and how it would be a great learning experience for all of us. They said they would probably call back in about a week about setting up a Skype interview with both my wife and I.

That was cool! Getting a callback was more than we’d ever expected. Well, then there was a Skype interview which was recorded for an audition and follow-up messages and calls. Nothing has happened, but they’ve said things are still moving forward. Will anything come of it? Who knows, but the whole possibility is very intriguing nonetheless and the continued possibility of this being something has kept us from really embracing our build project. Can you blame us? Since nothing is for sure, all the major details of this casting thing are left out of the article and you will be neuralized upon finishing reading this so as to not in any way derail our chances.

Time waits for no man. This being the case, we’ve once again started moving forward on our tiny home project. After consulting with a trailer specialist, the cost to strip our 7×10 trailer down was about the same cost of buying a newly built custom and larger 7×12 trailer to our specs. The additional length and ability to spread the width out beyond the frame will give us approximately an overall exterior size of 8×13. BONUS! Also the trailer place said it should be built and ready for us by next week. Then it’s just a matter of changing our designs to accommodate the additional room.

We’ll obviously have a lot more to talk about on this front in the near future. Huzzah for simple living!

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Tasty Salisbury Steaks

Salisbury Steak

As the primary cook for a family of five, I have made peace with the fact that there are very few dishes that everyone will rave about. More often than not a few will love a dish while the others will eat without too much complaint. Once and awhile, I will come a crossed a rare gem of a recipe that everyone loves, the clouds part, and rainbows glitter in the sky. Usually, I run out and buy a lotto ticket after dinner because it truly is a lucky day. One of these rare beauties is Salisbury steak.

This Salisbury steak is a far cry from anything you would find on a school lunch room tray or in the frozen section of the grocery store. There is an added bonus because, more often than not, the ingredients are already in the house.

The base for this one is ground meat. For the 5 of us we will use 3lbs because, frankly, I like leftovers. We like to use ground turkey but really any will work for this one.  Premix your bread crumbs with 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, onion powder and Italian seasoning and mix together with your ground meat. Finally, add 2 eggs to the mixture with a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper.

Combine all the ingredients together.  The easiest way to thoroughly mix together all the ingredients is to roll your sleeves up and mix it with your hands. Patty out the meat as if you were making round hamburgers. Fry each one on both sides until browned.

Place in a baking dish deep enough that you can cover each of the patties with beef gravy. You can make your own gravy or use a pre-made gravy for convenience. Bake them in a covered dish at 400 for at least 30 to 45 mins.

Usually I will get them in the oven and get a pot of mashed potatoes going. By the time the potatoes are soft and ready to be mashed the Salisbury steaks are done as well. If mushrooms strike your fancy you can throw some sauteed mushrooms in with the gravy before you bake them.

The only complaint I hear after I make these for dinner is “I’m too full to do the dishes”.

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